The advances of the Cuban revolution have brought real improvements to people’s lives. A report made by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), titled “Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition,” gave the resilient island country a nod for being the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have eliminated malnutrition for children. The report also noted that the Cuban government has vowed to eliminate poverty and reach complete environmental sustainability by 2015, a year which approaches with great strides toward this end already taking place. This is a huge victory for Cubans, as they have faced over five decades of unjust blockade by the U.S. government and constant threats from hurricanes and other natural disasters.
It is clear that the U.S. government might learn a lesson from its neighbor to the south, rather than interfering with the Cubans’ right to determine their own history. Since the U.S. in particular has a Gross Domestic Product of $15 trillion annually and a population of 311 million people, it is worth noting that, as of 2010, nearly one third of the population live in homes that experience hunger. Not only this, but 22% of the children in the U.S. live in poverty. Overall, 14% of the population lives in poverty. This has been on a steady increase since the year 2000.
The state of Florida, being only 90 miles from the city of Havana, Cuba, is noted for having a higher than average rate of food insecure homes in the country, at 16%.
Marisol Marquez, who worked as a teaching assistant in a Tampa elementary school, recalled the experience of teaching one student who was experiencing hunger: “One of my students was born in Mexico and her parents were undocumented. They had left Alabama after the state legislature passed a racist law targeting undocumented people. Despite how hard they worked, they also had problems feeding their children, one of whom was nine-year old Heidi. She always appeared to be starving in class before lunchtime, and so I would help provide her with snacks despite my own hourly wage of $8.25.”
Students like the one above are able to receive a free lunch at the school Ms. Marquez taught at, but only if they filled out several forms. One way the Cuban government has combatted child hunger in their country is through providing free meals (breakfast and lunch) at their schools, for both students and the workers at these institutions. Not only this, but the government also has implemented a program which provides food to homes for those at risk of hunger. Baskets filled with staple foods are delivered weekly to ensure that no child on the island goes without a meal.